Kitchen & Equipment Awards 2020: operator categories shortlists, part 1

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The first section of the Kitchen & Equipment Awards 2020 operator category shortlist covers the innovative kitchen design, energy efficiency & sustainability and equipment innovation accolades.

Operator of the Year – Innovative Kitchen Design

This category aims to recognise multi-site operators that have invested in new kitchens and spent time identifying the right design and layout to ensure operational excellence. Therefore, the shortlist is:

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Franco Manca
With dough made fresh on-site every day and its iconic dome-shaped solid-fuel ovens at the heart of the operation, Franco Manca’s template for authentic pizza production has proved hugely scalable as it has expanded throughout London and beyond. Trade at sites in suburban locations soared during lockdown, with its kitchen infrastructure proving agile enough to meet increased demand from delivery and click and collect. Franco Manca has also demonstrated best practice in areas as FOG management, where the roll-out of the latest grease recovery units across its estate has made the cleaning process easier for staff and averted potential closures caused by fat accumulation.

Itsu has deployed robotic equipment to make significant changes to its on-site kitchens and save prep time, reduce food wastage and speed up the time it takes to serve hot food. The healthy fast food chain’s ‘Store of the Future’ concept limits customer touchpoints and uses the latest technology to quicken orders. New maki and nigiri sushi robots have been introduced to guarantee consistency and productivity. Traditionally, sushi chefs mould nigiri by hand, but itsu’s advanced robot technology removes unnecessary handling, decreases food wastage and increases speed time for production, as one Nigiri robot can make 4,800 pieces in an hour.

Targeted investment within its kitchens has paid dividends for Loungers by allowing it to achieve quicker service times and improved margins. The company, which operates nearly 170 sites, has being working through a major ‘kitchen reset’ project that has seen back-of-house improvements carried out across the estate on a phased basis. Key prep processes have been improved and a focus on developing dishes that are easier to execute at peak times has created more efficiencies for its kitchen teams. Alongside this, the company has continued to add more resource to its menu development team, focusing on ingredient rationalisation and quality. Over the course of the year its dishes have improved and continued to become more consistent.

RUH NHS Foundation Trust
A £100,000 investment in the kitchens at the Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust has seen the organisation slash its utility bills while significantly reducing food waste. Five new computer-controlled multifunctional cooking systems have replaced an outdated estate of boiling pans used across its kitchens, which has led to improved temperature consistency and halved the amount of time it takes to cook certain menu items. As a result, the RUH is now buying 10% less meat, without reducing the amount of protein served in its dishes. With chefs creating more than 45,000 patient meals a month, the Trust has also seen a significant reduction in energy costs and water consumption.

YO! Sushi
YO! Sushi’s iconic conveyor belt delivery system is fundamentally linked to its kitchen operations, but it has had to rethink the entire set-up in the wake of Covid restrictions. A significant investment in a new ‘to table’ conveyor system and digital ordering system has resulted in a unique and fun dining experience which also helps ensure the safety of diners and staff alike. Customers now order from their mobile to minimise interaction with staff and pay their bill in advance. The kitchen then makes the dishes to order and an interactive traffic light system turns amber to inform customers when their food is on its way and green when the food arrives directly at their own table via a conveyor.


Operator of the Year – Energy Efficiency & Sustainability, sponsored by True Refrigeration

This accolade pays tribute to the operators that are working hard to make their kitchens greener through the right practices, equipment and standards. This year’s finalists are:

Bartlett Mitchell
Caterer Bartlett Mitchell has put sustainability at the heart of its operational strategy, achieving The Planet Mark certification for reducing emissions by 22.3 tCO2 in the past year. The company developed a strategy to calculate, measure and target environmental improvements through areas such as waste and procurement, resulting in its carbon footprint decreasing by 19% year-on-year. As foodservice shifts to more disposables for hygiene, the company has also participated in a programme that has seen compostable packaging waste collected as a separate waste stream. After 7 weeks at an in-vessel composting facility it is transformed into compost for use in agriculture, horticulture and landscaping.

Bill’s Restaurants
Bill’s constantly strives to run its restaurants as efficiently as possible and save energy where it can. It has installed on-site technology to track energy usage across its sites, and extraction fan speeds in its kitchens are automatically altered to reflect trade levels. The business now runs a programme called ‘Bill’s Green Mission’, which aims to bring energy saving, recycling and sustainability into the heart of its restaurants. Almost 130 ‘Green Rangers’ have been appointed in its restaurants to support campaigns such as the introduction of 100% recyclable takeaway coffee cups, the reduction of plastics within the business and the training of staff to use energy consciously.

Honest Burgers
Honest Burgers has made a success of the premium burger restaurant sector while making strides to minimise its carbon footprint. A review of its existing fryers revealed that more energy efficient equipment was available which could offer it significant savings in utility costs, oil consumption and waste. Working with Jestic, it invested in the latest Henny Penny Evolution Elite fryers, which feature a smaller fry vat allowing products to be cooked in 40% less oil. A built-in, sensor-activated Oil Guardian monitors the oil level, automatically replenishing from an oil reservoir inside the fryer without the risk of spills. Honest Burgers also utilises idle mode to lower temperature between periods of operation to save energy and extend oil life.

Marston’s constantly reviews its processes and procedures to ensure it works with like-minded suppliers and its kitchens meet the highest standards of efficiency. This includes comprehensive reviews of its lifecycle buying solutions to ensure equipment is not only good value, but is efficient to run and repair. Marston’s was the first major pub group to achieve zero waste to landfill – a feat achieved 18 months ahead of target. It now routinely recycles more than 80% of all waste. Post-lockdown, the chain completed over 3,500 PPM visits across all elements of its kitchens, including refrigeration and extraction, to ensure that equipment would fire up when required and work efficiently.

Mitchells & Butlers
The introduction of a grading system to determine whether surplus catering equipment can be used elsewhere within Mitchells & Butlers’ kitchen estate or sent for recycling has prevented tonnes of redundant kit being sent to landfill. The pub and restaurant chain makes around 250 investments in refurbishments and new kitchens every year, leading to significant volumes of excess appliances. Kitchen design managers now follow a new system where they score equipment between one and four, which then determines whether it is suitable for use elsewhere in the 1,700-strong estate or should be stripped down for spare parts. Ensuring less equipment reaches landfill fits within a wider sustainability programme operated by the company.


Operator of the Year – Equipment Innovation, sponsored by Jestic Foodservice Solutions

This award recognises the time, investment and sheer hard work that goes into rolling out innovative equipment across multiple operator sites. So the shortlist is:

Farmhouse Inns
The Greene King brand has invested heavily in innovative equipment to enhance kitchen operations and improve food consistency and quality across its 70 sites. This has included the roll-out of EKA combi ovens from Italy, which were specifically identified to produce best-in-class home-made Yorkshire puddings. Other strategic equipment choices that have benefitted its operations include the deployment of Hobart steamers to produce fresh steamed vegetables consistently and expediently. The introduction of targeted equipment has helped support Farmhouse Inns’ mission of providing a vast range of tasty pub favourites as well as a traditional daily carvery with a choice of fresh vegetables and succulent roasted joints of meat.

London-centric Gail’s Bakery has demonstrated how the very latest cooking technology can deliver multiple benefits across an estate that now spans more than 60 units. Energy efficient Unox Bakertop ovens have been chosen to achieve an extremely even bake while maintaining accurate temperature, vital for ensuring consistency throughout its stores. Gail’s is now utilising many of the advanced features offered on the ovens including Data Driven Cooking, which has enabled it to create and upload recipes to all its sites remotely and instantaneously, preventing any unnecessary loss in productivity. Downloadable energy consumption reports provide it with access to vital data that it has used to reduce wastage and increase profits.

McMullen & Sons
Hertfordshire pub group McMullen & Sons’ aim has always been to keep the Great British pub alive, and as well as brewing 100% natural British real ales it has done that by creating new menu ideas based around a platform of six different food concepts. This has been supported by investments in kitchen infrastructure, including the installation of a combination of Unox Cheftop combi ovens and Evereo hot food preserving units into a number of food-led sites. These units have been built into a single column, offering its pub sites the most effective solution in terms of cooking and holding menu items while helping to maximise margins on food costs.

Nando’s has embraced networked cooking, enabling an entire fleet of appliances to be controlled and monitored remotely. Key performance metrics can be measured from a central point and menus can be altered across multiple sites. Having the ability to track every single appliance it owns has also resulted in some significant maintenance gains, with service partners able to identify units at risk of breaking down before they do so and either schedule a site visit, or fix them remotely in some instances. The technology, which is enabled by Rational, provides it with detailed analysis of how each machine gets used, allowing it to offer restaurant managers precise suggestions about how to improve usage on each one.

The QSR sector is a highly competitive one where attention to detail back-of-house is key, as Wingstop demonstrated with a review of its oil management processes that led to an investment in Frontline’s Smart Oil Management system. It automatically pumps used cooking oil to a storage tank ready for collection, eliminating the risks of staff handling hot oil. The used oil generates an income for Wingstop as it is recycled into biofuels and renewable energy. The storage tanks are constructed from heavy-gauge stainless steel, feature anti-theft electronic locking mechanisms and are linked to a data-fed web interface, giving it a complete picture of used cooking oil volumes and a valuable audit trail of its assets.

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Clare Nicholls

The author Clare Nicholls

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